For the community of Makoko of Lagos, Nigeria life on the water is nothing new. Prone to flooding, residents have dealt with encroaching waters for generations by building houses on stilts and using canoes as their main source of transport. Now, with the threat of sea level rise from climate change, and developers who want to tear the community down, Makoko is in a state of uncertainty. Nigerian-born architect Kunle Adeyemi has a vision for the city of 250,000 people that involves constructing a group of floating structures that have better access to sanitation, fresh water, and waste disposal. His first endeavor would be to build a three-story school held afloat by plastic drums.

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After a trip to Makoko in 2009, Adeyemi was inspired to improve upon the main primary school that served the waterside settlement. His design, which will accommodate 100 students, will use 256 plastic drums to keep it resting on top of the water, and the frame will be constructed with locally-sourced wood. Electricity would be provided by solar panels on the roof, and rainwater harvesting would help operate toilets. The school is nearly finished, and the entire cost should total around $6,250.

Projects like Adeyemi’s could be the beginning of a trend followed throughout coastal Africa. “The building can be adapted for other uses, such as homes or hospitals. Ultimately, it’s a vision that can be used to sustainably develop [African] coastal communities.” said Adeyemi. While the government is reluctant to permanently establish the dozens of settlements in the city’s waters, tentative backing has been given by local officials. In recent years, nearby cities in Lagos have been reclaiming the water using land pumped from the ocean floor. Adeyemi’s strategy would work with the propensity for storms and rising tides to flood the area instead of fighting against them, setting a possible example for future developments in the country.

+NLÉ Architecture